Companies with a large customer base need good frontline staff. In the past, that term was used to refer to neatly dressed, well-groomed receptionists, secretaries and enquiries staff. The first telephone contact people made with a company was through its hopefully well-spoken switchboard operator/s. Now, that has all changed.

In today’s fast-paced, modern world, instant gratification is the catch phrase. People do not have time to travel to stand in queues waiting for face-to-face interaction with a customer service representative who may or may not be able to help them. Customers want to make an inexpensive phone call, with the expectation that they can have their questions answered and problems solved quickly and professionally.

That’s where call centre training comes in. Without it, companies cannot achieve the levels of customer satisfaction that they aspire to. After all, that’s what businesses depend on to keep existing customers and attract new ones.

In the five years since 2006, South Africa’s contact centre industry has doubled in size. Interestingly, salaries for contact centre agents have increased faster than the rate of inflation – even for inexperienced recruits.

Companies have realised the need for skills development and training to increase the pool of reliable, professional agents. They have seen how well employees respond to being presented with the opportunity to better themselves through learnerships and have been rewarded with a more dedicated, committed staff complement.

Efficient communication is vital. There are few things more frustrating than talking to somebody who does not understand you properly (sometimes due to a language barrier) or has not given you their full attention, requiring you to repeat your query exhaustively or hang up in desperation. It begins with listening skills and call centre staff are taught techniques to fully engage with their callers.

Employees work better for bosses who care. Good contact centre agents describe their job as ‘a calling’… ‘you’ve got to love it’.

Training improves staff skills across the board, resulting in less absenteeism, more loyalty, better service, and a higher quality of calls. Of course there’s the added advantage of scoring broad-based black economic empowerment points too.